When you have a plumbing leak in your home, it could involve any of the three types of wastewater. Finding out what kind of water you’re dealing with will help you make cleaning decisions. Should you be tossing your wet socks in the washing machine, or should you be throwing them out? Do you need to replace whatever the flood water has touched, or will a simple mop take care of the job? It all depends on what kind of water sprung your leak.
1. Clean Water
If the pipes that deliver water to your taps or fixtures have sprung the leak, you’re in luck. This water would have been safe for you to drink moments ago. Now that it’s on the floor or on your clothing cleaning up is simply a matter of drying things off. You can toss your towels down to absorb clean water without worry that you’ll have to replace them.
On the other hand, clean water can become contaminated after the leak. In the bathroom especially, water can spread germs from one surface to another. It’s best to clean up after this kind of leak with soap and water, once things are dry. Further, if you wait too long to clean up, more than 48 hours, this water can become a breeding ground for bacteria, so don’t delay.
If you’ve heard of greywater, you’ve probably heard of it as part of a “greywater system.” Usually installed in ecologically friendly homes, these systems collect used tap water and direct it towards plants. However, what is safe for plants isn’t always safe for you.
A grey water leak isn’t immediately harmful, but it does contain bacteria that you may have washed off your hands, or washed away in the shower, depending on whether your leak is at the faucet or the bathtub. Washing machine leaks are also greywater leaks.
You can use towels and mops to clean up after a greywater leak, but you’ll need to sterilize everything afterwards. Use gloves and other protective equipment when cleaning and use a bleach solution or another disinfectant once things are dry. You should also toss all of the towels and mop heads into the washing machine after. Be sure to set it to hot water, which helps kill germs.
Leaks from toilets, urinals and sometimes kitchen sinks are blackwater leaks. These are contaminated with raw sewage and toilet paper. Or, if the leak is at a kitchen sink, it is contaminated with bacteria from food preparation. Either way, a blackwater leak is a serious safety risk.
You should not allow your skin to contact blackwater. Any household items or surfaces blackwater touches will likely need to be discarded and replaced. This includes towels, carpets, and drywall. Sometimes hard, nonporous surfaces can be saved if they can be sterilized.
This is a job best left to the professionals because improperly cleaned blackwater can cause serious infections and other health issues. When you call a restoration or cleaning professional, they will tell you what can be salvaged and what you must replace.
Not sure if you’re dealing with a clean water, greywater or blackwater leak? After performing a water leak detection on your property, your plumber can tell you what kind of leak you’re dealing with so that you can start to make cleaning arrangements.